• Wali Muhammad

Four Tips to Power Self-Talk

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

It was a shitty day!

For the starter in the morning, my son, rushing to catch the school bus, ran right into me. I was by the kitchen counter, all dressed up for a client meeting, helping myself with a hot chocolate. As the brownish liquid spurt over my clothes, my amygdala erupted in a roar, “can’t you see where you’re going, buster!” He just wanted to quickly hug me goodbye to school.

I changed clothes at the speed of light, sat in the car, and off I sped. Halfway, my wife called. I totally missed I had to drop her to work today. At the meeting, it turned out that I forgot to bring a copy of the client brief with my notes on it. At around 1 pm, I received a call from the dentist’s office. A polite female voice informed, my 3 pm appointment today needed to be rescheduled. What a heaven-sent scapegoat. I absolutely vent my rage of the day! Strange, I felt even heavier. By 2 PM, I was a walking heap of guilt, frustration, and anger.

And, then, remorse began to slowly set in. All the mistakes in life, things I should’ve done… slowly crept up. So much mess– I was responsible for all of it. Remorse is painful; it hurts the body badly. Self-pity lays it off a bit. All one needs is to shift the blame on people and events. The mantra is: what could I do!

Calling it out early could help, I thought– drive around aimlessly, make sense of my butt from the elbow. Quite instinctively, I turned into the drive-thru as I saw a Timmy’s. I could use something strong and dark. Passing the coffee, the lady at the window looked at me for a split second. Her words, “go get’em tiger!” shot through me like a jolt resuscitates an arresting heart- exactly what I needed to hear! I smiled back– exactly what I needed to do!

The smile came with a flutter of lightness buoying up my stomach. I noticed, for the first time, it was a bright, sunny day, very nice actually. I remembered it was still a great client- meeting, after all. So nice that my wife called to know how I was doing. She said, “our boy was happy with the exam.” As my brain began to function again, self-pity made way to self-assurance.

The above story is a fictional account to illustrate how, in the absence of some intentional control over our thoughts, we allow events to decide whether the self-defeating or the self-actualizing person within us will take charge of our behaviour. Power self-talk can help permanently, or for the most part of it, restore control to the self-actualizing person within us.

Sometime after he was diagnosed with liver cancer, Steve Jobs gave a heartfelt talk to a graduating class at Stanford. His advice: “Don’t let the voice of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice.” Let’s say self-talk is the subliminally ongoing dialogue between the voice of others and our own inner voice. Let’s call the voice of others, the intensifier, and our inner voice, the pacifier. The intensifier is our distorted, generalized perception of how the world would respect us. It judges us, makes us nervous. The pacifier helps us understand ourselves, inspires us to learn and improve.

Power self-talk is the intentionally directed self-talk to feed all the incoming sensory information to the pacifier to maintain oneself in an optimal state of personal performance. The aim is to improve the quality of self-image, assessment of the world around, and the choices we make in encountering the situations of life. The objective is: ignore the intensifier; strengthen the pacifier. The catch is to figure the voice of the intensifier from the voice of the pacifier.

The following four tips can help master the power self-talk.

Ignore the Intensifier

The intensifier works on the principle of proving you’re not good enough. Intensifier says:

  • You made everything go wrong, like always, stupid!

  • There’s nothing positive about what happened. Can’t you see you’re a loser already?

  • There are only two types of people: good or bad. Know it!

  • All roads lead to catastrophe, there’s no other outcome.

Listen to the Pacifier

The pacifier works on the principle of prevailing better sense: “ I need to reciprocate a smile; it was a good business meeting, after all; I need to say sorry to my son and wife, for all of us to feel better…” Pacifier says:

  • See! you did it better than the last time. Let’s make it even better the next time.

  • Things can improve if …

  • Know more about people. Everyone has their unique potentials to help with …

  • Let’s get a handle on things to steer them towards …

Empower the Pacifier with Integrity

A chance to feed our ego emerges and we give in, resulting in broken hearts, abuse of power, even embezzlement. Integrity is the first casualty of submitting to the voice of the intensifier. It demands instant fixes, or it will punish with intense feelings of anger, guilt, remorse. Maintaining a course of integrity is not just some individual virtue. It enables the self to see that rights come with responsibilities. Integrity stimulates creativity to visualize ever new scenarios for mutual progress. Top of all, it’s being at peace with oneself. Equip your pacifier with integrity.


Pacifier is a bit shy. It needs a little encouragement to speak up, but when it does, it speaks from the heart and tells you nothing but the truth. To give it some confidence, try a 30-minute, one-on-one meeting with this guy, three times a week. You’ll find, it makes you remarkably peaceful and aligned with your potentials. Try this routine for a month and you’ll see that Pacifier remains with you all the time as your very best and most-trusted friend.

Wali Muhammad

Wali imagines happy, creative, and productive workplaces. He designs and implements learning and development interventions to create them. Realizing that today’s globally-connected, exceedingly multicultural, and millennials-rich workforces and markets demand new approaches to organizational capacity building, Wali founded Behavioural Skills Company in 2015.


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